Inhabiting remote spaces
: an aesthetic of the inter-human

  • Stephen Martin Hollingsworth

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This PhD submission addresses these questions: What are the creative possibilities of body, light, time and sound combinations, when the implications of profound perceptual subjectivity are acknowledged? What is the creative potential of working with profound and multiply learning-disabled people (PMLD)? What are the creative possibilities and outcomes when ideas arrived at in this field, are taken back into a wider art context of exhibitions and live performances? Working as an Artist for Edinburgh charity Artlink, I slowly discovered a hidden constellation of ideas. Through developing a mutable and shape-shifting aesthetic, based on combinations of light, sound, time and the body, I found I was able to relate to people with profound disability. The methodology is embodied in the practice, through the media of performance, film and installation together with allowing the working process to lead idea development. Using my responsiveness to detail, collaborating and sharing ideas, and working in an open-ended, intuitive way led to the seven works discussed in the commentary. The use of performance was initiated by the realisation that, the main mutable material I had in the moment (within workshops with PMLD people) was the potential of my own body, to accentuate and interact with people, using other materials and to produce sound through my voice. Through these means, I was able to provide spontaneous live art experiences for those with profound neural differences to me. By tuning my aesthetic sensitivities to them and by stretching and sustaining events through time, new aesthetic experiences could persist more (as memories) for those, that process sensory inputs at a much reduced pace. As a result, ideas of time and duration, the body, light (neon) and sound became the common elements of the work discussed and evolve throughout each piece within the commentary. Common to all of the works are ideas of how we actually form meaning from the world through our senses. Philosophical ideas often inform the process of making work as an initial material to form starting points. Working alongside Jim Colquhoun led to the formation of the collaborative practice, ‘Two Ruins,’ which became an open space for exploring improvisation and performance. A further collaboration with musician Alison McGillivray was developed to challenge and explore vulnerability and critique ideas of virtuosity within the Conservatoire. The portfolio of work denies any straightforward linear interpretation, intentionally. This is achieved by the multitude of references within the work and is activated by combinations of slow-time, light, body and sound. These unfold in physically remote locations or are separated from the viewer by time being sustained through performance. This strategy ensures the work can withstand sustained engagement by a viewer, trying to unravel the many threads of meaning they are confronted by.
Date of Award27 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAlistair MacDonald (Supervisor)

Access Status

  • Full text open

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